Spell Bee

What is a Spelling Bee?

A spelling bee is a contest where participants are challenged to spell a wide range of words, which can vary in difficulty. Contestants need to learn the correct spellings from dictionaries and spell them out loud during the competition.


Bulgarian National English Spelling Bee.


Historically, the term "bee" has referred to a gathering focused on collective work, such as a husking bee, a quilting bee, or an apple bee. Etymological studies suggest that "bee" likely derives from the dialectal "been" or "bean," which means "help given by neighbors." This term traces back to the Middle English word "bene," which stood for "prayer," "boon," and "extra service by a tenant to his lord."

Fun Fact

THE BEE WAS FIRST TELEVISED IN 1946. The national finals of the Bee were first aired live on NBC in 1946. Over the years, parts of the Spelling Bee have also been shown on PBS and ABC. However, since 1994, ESPN has played a significant role in promoting the Bee, providing extensive live coverage of the competition.


Spelling bees have a rich history that dates back to the early 19th century in the United States, initially referred to as "spelling matches" as early as 1808. The widespread use of Noah Webster's "Blue-backed Speller," first published in 1786, was crucial in standardizing spelling and became a staple in American elementary education for generations. Spelling bees gained popularity across the U.S. during the 19th century as a method of encouraging the learning of standardized spelling.


Spelling Bee Contest Winners Then and Now.

The first national spelling bee was organized by the National Education Association in 1908 in Cleveland. The formal United States National Spelling Bee began in 1925, sponsored by The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky, with the first winner being Frank Neuhauser. In 1941, Scripps Howard News Service took over the sponsorship, and the competition became known as the Scripps National Spelling Bee. This event now attracts competitors from all 50 U.S. states and other countries, including Canada and New Zealand, and offers significant cash prizes.

The spelling bee phenomenon has also expanded to include special versions like the National Senior Spelling Bee, started in 1996 for contestants aged 50 and older, and the South Asian Spelling Bee, targeting South Asian-American participants. There are also international competitions, reflecting the global appeal of English spelling challenges, which are unique due to the language's irregular spelling patterns. Unlike English, languages with more phonetic and regular spellings, such as Hindi, rarely host spelling bees.


Practise your vocabulary with Spell Bee.


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